Beginning the Saga: My Phantom Menace Adventure in 4D!

I have a love/hate relationship with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. As a huge Star Wars nerd I haven’t been more hyped since the new trilogy was announced, I was one of those fans who actually thought the title was cool, so mysterious, so menacing! You can pretty much add phantom to anything and it can sounds cool. Phantom Planet, Danny Phantom, Phantom Jester, Phantom Geek… you get the point. Whatever the case it’s still a lot better than Attack of the Clones From Outer Space.

When the day finally came and I saw the film, I left the theater underwhelmed. Not disappointed, just a bit uneasy about what I had witnessed. I saw fantastic lightsaber duels, R2-D2, space battles, Jedis, marvelous music, everything wrapped around this thing called “The Force”. The problem was that it wasn’t strong with this one, it didn’t FEEL like a Star Wars movie and the whole thing was muddled by so many awful decisions, but still, it was Star Wars and I never said it was horrible, not even disappointing. Just underwhelming due to its mediocrity. It was MEH! Not something I wanted from Star Wars (I later became used to “meh” as you might imagine).

Fast forward 11 years later and a rerelease in 3D was announced, I felt it was the stupidest thing ever but I knew I’d be seeing it anyway (it’s hard to be a fanboy these days), heck, I even tweeted it that day (not without using a little generalization and hyperbole of course).

So finally a date was announced and I couldn’t care less… that is until one week before opening day, I saw the ad on a theater and ended up surprising myself with my reaction, I was suddenly excited to revisit the film. I don’t care about 3D but if I’m being forced to shell a couple of extra bucks just to see it on the big screen, so be it, but on the other hand I wasn’t screaming with excitement either. It was “MEHxcitement”.

Suddenly things took an interesting turn. A cousin of mine, who is also a fan tells me if I had any plans friday. As I’m a big failure at life I tell him “No because I don’t really have friends”, so he says “cool, cuz I bought these 2 tickets for Episode 1 but I won’t be able to make it and since you’re a huge dork and all, I imagined you might want them”. Well of course I do! SCORE! I didn’t actually have plans to go see it a certain day, I didn’t have the need to go to the midnight screening with toy lightsabers and black and red makeup, but now, everything came into place. The Phantom Menace HERE I COME! …oh what’s this? There’s more? YES! Fortunately for me, it turns out that the tickets were for the new local 4DX theaters. It’s one of those theaters equipped with simulation technology and live special effects like strobes, wind and mist. EXCITEMENT LEVELS RISING! CAPSLOCK JOY!! There was a small caveat though, it was at the 10:40 PM showing which at my age usually means I’ll be sleeping through it halfway and I was taking my girlfriend who’s not really a fan and has been working hard all week, so I was pretty certain that at any moment she’d be falling asleep as well.

The day finally came, I battled haters left and right with my enthusiasm and I could not wait any longer. The clock struck 9PM. One more hour before we left home. I’m getting angsty as hell. 10 PM, leave everything you’re doing and let’s get out of here. Meesa go to the theater! We had seen another film in 4DX but it was the amazingly craptacular The Darkest Hour, fortunately that came about as a freebie as well because if it hadn’t I’d probably start killing people until I had my money back, and as crappy as the movie was the experience really didn’t give us anything worth while. Eyerolls are not more entertaining if your seats are shaking to be honest, so we figured the experience might be fun with something more thrilling, what better excuse to test it out than Star Wars. So here we go, we get there and I get even more excited once the Lucasfilm logo enters the scene and I begin to hear the main theme, logos and titles always look amazing in 3D by the way. Then comes the space crawl, something something, politics… trade federation… can we fast forward this please? Oh look, two amazing actors as Jedis, still, something feels a bit odd, the actions feels clunky and the aliens are unnerving (and not in a good way) but wait, there’s lightsabers and cool droids with forcefields that roll around in ball shape (the seats start to shake), it’s all decent but a bit boring, especially since I’ve seen this before and I realize something, the reason I didn’t leave disappointed when I saw it the first time in the theater was because that even if it wasn’t what I wanted it was still new, new alien races, new jedis, new robots, new spaceships and planets, there was still some wonder in it. Now that I knew how everything would pan out I thought I was going to be more forgiving knowing full well what I was getting myself into, but on the contrary, I started paying attention to the details and all the missteps in between. Once JarJar came into frame, I knew we were in deep doodoo and the only thing I could do was apologize to my girlfriend. Oh well, we still had 2 sequences to look forward to, especially since we’d be literally shaking in our seats. You already know what scenes I’m talking about, once the pod race started I nudged my girl so she’d stop drowzing and at least enjoy some thrills and while the 3D doesn’t really add anything the motion controlled seats really threw us into the action, especially since there are frequent shots in first person view that make you feel like you’re really in a speeding pod racer. After that we took a few more naps, the moving seats ironically helped a bit, since they lulled us to sleep.

The other memorable sequence involves two jedis and a double sided lightsaber and while the space battles look really cool as well, they have been tainted by the convenient skills of little *shudder* Annie and his ‘yipees’ and with the exception of JarJar, the battle at Naboo does have some cool moments (I’m still not sure what to think of the Akira Kurosawa nod… seriously George, you had to put it in this piece of crap?). The 4DX this time around wasn’t as exciting and just seems a bit awkward and distracting sometimes, especially during the lightsaber fight but with so much going on, a gust of wind here, a spray of mist there, it also added to the chaos of it all, and I’m not complaining.

In the end, I think I was in a bit of denial (again!), while I still love Star Wars, all the prequels are really a huge misstep, and I understand that times change, there were new potential fans and ol’ George just wanted to sell more toys, but did we seriously need stupid annoying JarJar stepping on crap, being an idiot and… ugh, I can’t go on. It’s interesting how one element, how one character can downgrade a whole movie, a whole franchise. I’d be fine with “too much CGI”, I’d be fine with slapstick droids, I’d be fine with Anakin building C-3PO, Darth Maul’s *SPOILER?* lame death, “Are you an angel?”, midiclorians, midiclorians as the holy ghost, funky looking aliens, 60’s Batman grapple guns, deus ex machinas… I’d be OK with all of that if that aberration known as JarJar had never existed. Yet I still think I enjoy this movie a bit more than the other two prequels. Meesa don’t care what anyone thinkies, but I’ll get back to you once I see them in the theater. At least this time it was free and it ended up being a literally moving experience and one thing’s for certain, if I ever have trouble sleeping I’ll just pop in my VHS copy of the movie and that’ll be just that.